Head to unpretentious North Stradbroke Island – the world’s second-largest sand island – to relax and enjoy the laidback local lifestyle.
By Katrina Lobley
A visit to North Stradbroke Island ("Straddie" to locals) charms with its retro, laidback vibe. Make like a local and hit the beach or delve into the Queensland sand island’s fascinating history. And did we mention there are kangaroos just hopping about, ready for their close-up?
- Keep an eye out for resident kangaroos, kookaburras and koalas
- Visit two stunning coloured lakes sacred to indigenous Australians
- Bring binoculars to whale watch from solid ground
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Top things to do on North Stradbroke Island
Bask in all-day sunshine
Cylinder Beach, near the community of Point Lookout, is a photogenic cove with fine white sand that attracts families and paddlers; its soft, peeling waves appeal to surfers and body boarders. The patrolled beach is north-facing, which means it enjoys all-day sunshine along with glorious views over to neighbouring Moreton Island.
See migrating humpbacks
Like to see some spectacular whale action while standing on solid ground? Skip the motion of the ocean that comes with whale watching cruises and head to Point Lookout with a pair of binoculars between late May and early November. Straddie is near Australia’s “humpback highway” – the route taken by whales migrating between their feeding and breeding grounds. Humpbacks are known for their extroverted “breaching” behaviour, which includes leaping out of the water and rolling in the air.
Browse indigenous arts and crafts
Take home a unique souvenir from the Saltwater Murris Quandamooka Art Gallery in Dunwich. The contemporary visual arts and craft centre, open daily, contains a wide range of work that tells the stories of the indigenous people who have lived on the island for thousands of years.
Visit Brown and Blue lakes
Brown Lake and Blue Lake are the two largest and most sacred lakes on the island. Indigenous Australians believe the lakes are home to a giant carpet snake spirit. Brown Lake (the pure rainwater is stained brown by native tea trees) is 3.5 kilometres (2 miles) from Dunwich. To reach Blue Lake, continue past the Brown Lake turn-off to the Blue Lake entrance in Naree Budjong Djara National Park and hike to the lake through woodlands.
Walk the North Gorge
At Point Lookout, get a bit of a workout by following the North Gorge walk that traces up, down and around the rocky headlands, showcasing a spectacular narrow gorge. Pandanus palms frame stunning coastal views that, at the right time of year, might include migrating humpback whales.
Delve into the island’s history
Learn all about Straddie’s fascinating history at the North Stradbroke Island Historical Museum in Dunwich (where the ferries arrive). Exhibits give information about the indigenous Quandamooka people, convict history, shipwrecks and sand mining. The museum is housed in a combination of original and replica Benevolent Asylum buildings.
Stay and snap the wildlife
Straddie is packed with accommodation options ranging from campsites to hotels and resorts. At Cylinder Beach, the Stradbroke Island Beach Hotel and Spa Resort, formerly the Straddie Pub until a head-to-toe makeover in 2006, offers hotel rooms and apartments for those who prefer to self cater. Nearby, The Islander Holiday Resort offers apartments, along with the chance to spy Straddie’s resident kangaroos, koalas and kookaburras.
How to get there
All ferries and water taxis to North Stradbroke Island leave from Cleveland, a Brisbane suburb that’s 30 kilometres (18 miles) from the city centre and the airport. The ferry takes 50 minutes; a water-taxi halves the travel time.